Dem Rep. Chaka Fattah indicted on racketeering charges

In a move that surprised no one familiar with the guilty plea last year of his close aide, Gregory Naylor, U.S. representative Chaka Fattah of Philadelphia was indicted today.

Rep. Fattah, 58, and four associates were charged with bribery; conspiracy to commit wire, honest services, bank and mail fraud; money laundering and other charges.

Prosecutors said the charges covered several schemes, including the use of federal grants and charitable contributions to Fattah's educational foundation to pay back part of a $1 million loan from a wealthy campaign supporter and arranging a federal grant in lieu of a $130,000 payment to a political consultant.

According to U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger, the other four people charged are: Lobbyist Herbert Vederman, 69, of Palm Beach, Florida; Fattah's Congressional District Director Bonnie Bowser, 59, of Philadelphia; Robert Brand, 69, of Philadelphia; and Karen Nicholas, 57, of Williamstown, New Jersey

Further details:

The allegations, as released by the U.S. Attorney, are as follows:

"The indictment alleges that, in connection with his failed 2007 campaign to serve as mayor of Philadelphia, Fattah and certain associates borrowed $1 million from a wealthy supporter and disguised the funds as a loan to a consulting company. After he lost the election, Fattah allegedly returned $400,000 to the donor that the campaign had not used, and arranged for Educational Advancement Alliance (EAA), a non-profit entity that he founded and controlled, to repay the remaining $600,000 using charitable and federal grant funds that passed through two other companies, including one run by Brand. To conceal the contribution and repayment scheme, the defendants and others allegedly created sham contracts and made false entries in accounting records, tax returns and campaign finance disclosure statements.

In addition, the indictment alleges that after his defeat in the mayoral election, Fattah sought to extinguish approximately $130,000 in campaign debt owed to a political consultant by agreeing to arrange for the award of federal grant funds to the consultant. According to the allegations in the indictment, Fattah directed the consultant to apply for a $15 million grant, which he did not ultimately receive, on behalf of a then non-existent non-profit entity. In exchange for Fattah's efforts to arrange the award of the funds to the non-profit, the consultant allegedly agreed to forgive the debt owed by the campaign.

The indictment further alleges that Fattah misappropriated funds from his mayoral and congressional campaigns to repay his son's student loan debt. To execute the scheme, Fattah and Bowser allegedly arranged for his campaigns to make payments to a political consulting company, which the company then used to lessen Fattah's son's student loan debt. According to the allegations in the indictment, between 2007 and 2011, the consultant made 34 successful loan payments on behalf of Fattah's son, totaling approximately $23,000.

In another alleged scheme, beginning in 2008, Fattah communicated with individuals in the legislative and executive branches in an effort to secure for Vederman an ambassadorship or an appointment to the U.S. Trade Commission. In exchange, Vederman provided money and other items of value to Fattah. As part of this scheme, the indictment alleges that the defendants sought to conceal an $18,000 bribe payment from Vederman to Fattah by disguising it as a payment for a car sale that never actually took place.

Finally, the indictment alleges that Nicholas obtained $50,000 in federal grant funds that she claimed would be used by EAA to support a conference on higher education. The conference never took place. Instead, Nicholas used the grant funds to pay $20,000 to a political consultant and $10,000 to her attorney, and wrote several checks to herself from EAA's operating account."

But don't worry for the Democrats.  The district is so overwhelmingly Democratic that Fattah could easily win from prison, or, more likely, another Democrat will step in if he is convicted.

In a move that surprised no one familiar with the guilty plea last year of his close aide, Gregory Naylor, U.S. representative Chaka Fattah of Philadelphia was indicted today.

Rep. Fattah, 58, and four associates were charged with bribery; conspiracy to commit wire, honest services, bank and mail fraud; money laundering and other charges.

Prosecutors said the charges covered several schemes, including the use of federal grants and charitable contributions to Fattah's educational foundation to pay back part of a $1 million loan from a wealthy campaign supporter and arranging a federal grant in lieu of a $130,000 payment to a political consultant.

According to U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger, the other four people charged are: Lobbyist Herbert Vederman, 69, of Palm Beach, Florida; Fattah's Congressional District Director Bonnie Bowser, 59, of Philadelphia; Robert Brand, 69, of Philadelphia; and Karen Nicholas, 57, of Williamstown, New Jersey

Further details:

The allegations, as released by the U.S. Attorney, are as follows:

"The indictment alleges that, in connection with his failed 2007 campaign to serve as mayor of Philadelphia, Fattah and certain associates borrowed $1 million from a wealthy supporter and disguised the funds as a loan to a consulting company. After he lost the election, Fattah allegedly returned $400,000 to the donor that the campaign had not used, and arranged for Educational Advancement Alliance (EAA), a non-profit entity that he founded and controlled, to repay the remaining $600,000 using charitable and federal grant funds that passed through two other companies, including one run by Brand. To conceal the contribution and repayment scheme, the defendants and others allegedly created sham contracts and made false entries in accounting records, tax returns and campaign finance disclosure statements.

In addition, the indictment alleges that after his defeat in the mayoral election, Fattah sought to extinguish approximately $130,000 in campaign debt owed to a political consultant by agreeing to arrange for the award of federal grant funds to the consultant. According to the allegations in the indictment, Fattah directed the consultant to apply for a $15 million grant, which he did not ultimately receive, on behalf of a then non-existent non-profit entity. In exchange for Fattah's efforts to arrange the award of the funds to the non-profit, the consultant allegedly agreed to forgive the debt owed by the campaign.

The indictment further alleges that Fattah misappropriated funds from his mayoral and congressional campaigns to repay his son's student loan debt. To execute the scheme, Fattah and Bowser allegedly arranged for his campaigns to make payments to a political consulting company, which the company then used to lessen Fattah's son's student loan debt. According to the allegations in the indictment, between 2007 and 2011, the consultant made 34 successful loan payments on behalf of Fattah's son, totaling approximately $23,000.

In another alleged scheme, beginning in 2008, Fattah communicated with individuals in the legislative and executive branches in an effort to secure for Vederman an ambassadorship or an appointment to the U.S. Trade Commission. In exchange, Vederman provided money and other items of value to Fattah. As part of this scheme, the indictment alleges that the defendants sought to conceal an $18,000 bribe payment from Vederman to Fattah by disguising it as a payment for a car sale that never actually took place.

Finally, the indictment alleges that Nicholas obtained $50,000 in federal grant funds that she claimed would be used by EAA to support a conference on higher education. The conference never took place. Instead, Nicholas used the grant funds to pay $20,000 to a political consultant and $10,000 to her attorney, and wrote several checks to herself from EAA's operating account."

But don't worry for the Democrats.  The district is so overwhelmingly Democratic that Fattah could easily win from prison, or, more likely, another Democrat will step in if he is convicted.